The Nutty Professor



The past few days has seen a lot written on the late comedic genius Jerry Lewis. There is some conjecture over his real name: Jerome or Joseph Levitch but for us Jerry Lewis will do just fine. Then again there is some conjecture over Robert DiPierdomenico’s name too. Is it Robert, is it Berto or is there a capital on the P? But Dipper will do us just fine too.


Along the way I’ve had a chance meeting with both.


In the 90s Dipper made frequent trips to Hobart under the banner of celebrity. We had none of those in Tassy and he seemed to fill that void. I ran a newsagency and would often call in. He thought it was a library.


Lewis was the headline act for the gala opening of Hobart’s Wrest Point Casino. He always managed a few hours ‘at the tables’ and a round of golf while down here on the island. Don’t talk about the golf. He miss-hit and struck a kid in the eye during a round at Claremont golf course during this legendary trip to the Apple Isle.


I managed to play a few hands of blackjack, quite a few in fact, alongside the great man, Lewis that is, during the 1973 visit.  One Sunday arvo we were joined at the table by Ross Sankey, Darrell Cantwell, Mrs ‘Tilley’ Luck and Maurie Metaxis, all habitual gamblers. In order, Sankey managed to dispatch the Sankey Corporation into the verge of bankruptcy before walking away in only the clothes he wore. In Cantwell’s case I doubt anyone who has lived on the planet has had more individual bets and maybe no one has discarded as many betting slips as this man. Next ‘The Greek’, Metaxas, shot off two vibrant fish & chip shops along with a block of flats and a small supermarket. Finally Mrs Luck – what a misnomer – or ‘Tilley’ as she was affectionately known, turned to blackjack following her husband’s death, managing to eradicate four inner city double brick houses along the way. Some say she was the worst blackjack player ever to look across a table.


It is an all too familiar story and over the journey, wherever you look unfortunately the theme remains the same.
The only survivor is Cantwell a man I recently helped move house. He sat perched in the front seat of my Toyota extra-cab ute clinging to a lava lamp. He was into his new abode in one trip such is his tenure in life’s ocean. This week we reflected on those heady days of Wrest Point which, back then, was the only casino in the country. Both he and the casino now seem somewhat worse for wear and like Lewis have probably exceeded their ‘use by’ date. He also found, not unusually if we believe the latest offerings on Lewis’ mannerisms, he was somewhat aloof and didn’t want to interact with those around him, almost cantankerous but no fool. He wrote, produced, directed and acted in The Nutty Professor. Do your sums on the royalties for that one!


The next time I heard Lewis speak, apart from a movie, was at the Gabba in 1999 when he tossed the coin for a Brisbane Lions v West Coast Eagles game. Lewis was in town for a few shows at Jupiter’s Casino on the Gold Coast. Coincidentally Dipper was there as a boundary rider for the Seven network. He had fallen into the job and held sway for a few years until ‘they (Seven) woke.’


As the toss was announced Dipper approached Lewis and sidled up to interview him like a long lost friend. He opened with his famous opening gambit of, “Gidday mate,” and started to interview him. Lewis simply glared at Dipper as if he was alien and darting away shouted back over his shoulder, “Get away you hack!”


So it seems correct that the Lewis persona was as true as the latest commentary; aloof, cantankerous and often unengaging. Lewis was described as a fool but no a dummy. Some say Dipper was both; he was certainly no professor!




Daryl Sharpen

23 Aug 2017


Read one of Daryl Sharpen’s cracking cricket pieces here.

Leave a Comment